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98digger
July 29th, 2014, 05:26 PM
Just thought I'd make a post up for the PC-9800 (abbreviated "PC-98"), which few people seem to know about. It is currently gaining popularity among retro gaming fans elsewhere on the internet, and I kind of want to spread the word about its existence.

History:
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In 1983, NEC Corporation created the PC-9801 computer, a 16-bit 8086 machine with an original architecture. Prior to this, NEC released the PC-8801, a Z80-based system. While the PC-88 was released in the US, PC-98 did not officially get a release outside of Japan. NEC APC, a heavily modified PC-98-like PC, was released in the US, however.

PC-9801 was very popular in Japan and easily overtook IBM, Sharp, Fujitsu, and ASCII (the main competitors). PC-9801 had many variations, each improving upon the hardware in some way depending on the model. All PC-9801 ran N88-BASIC (MS-Basic variation), MS-DOS, or early versions of Windows. PC-98 computers had a 16-bit expansion bus called "C-BUS". It also had its own sound blaster-like card, the 9801-86, which used the Yamaha YM2608 (OPNA). EPSON produced PC-98 compatibles known as EPSON PC-486/586.

In 1993, in order to compete with IBM, NEC released the 32-bit PC-9821 series, which incorporated PCI and i486 into the PC-9801 architecture. Because NEC packaged Windows 95/98 with the 9821 series, customers were transitioned into Windows, which could run on cheaper IBM machines. Windows soon replaced NEC as the standard in Japan, and the PC-9800 series ended with the introduction of the PC-98NX, a standard IBM compatible.
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The PC-98 is currently most well known for being the first platform the "Touhou Project" games appeared on (in 1996). However, few people other than Touhou fans are aware of the PC-98. Most freelance programers in Japan have ignored the PC-98, although some did actually modify FreeDOS into FreeDOS( 98 ), an adaptation of FreeDOS that allows it to run on a PC-98.

Although I do not own a PC-98 yet (I'm tracking one down at the moment), I do know a lot about them, so feel free to ask me any questions you have! :p

Thanks!:D

Chuck(G)
July 29th, 2014, 05:54 PM
I'm not particularly interested in games, but I've been following the 9801 series since the early 90s. I darned near bought a NEC APC (same architecture, just from the commercial products side of NEC) instead of a 5150 back in 1983.

NEC's problem is that they're always maintained the platform as a closed system. Any information that there is has been sussed out by hobbyists. I'm aware, for example, of no official publication of the ins and outs of the C-Bus.

One thing that has undoubtedly led to the scrapping of many early 9801s was the use of nonstandard floppy drives. Many employed internal (sometimes called VFO) data separator circuits. This was true for the 8" to the 3.5" drives as well as the 5.25" ones.

FWIW, the 9801-type of platform was in very common use among Japanese machine tool manufacturers. Mitsubishi, Tokyo Electron and others. The CPU, however, can range between 8086 to 68000 (the latter runs CP/M 68K).

I believe that there are 9801 emulators for various mobile platforms, including the iPod.

98digger
July 29th, 2014, 06:13 PM
I'm not particularly interested in games, but I've been following the 9801 series since the early 90s. I darned near bought a NEC APC (same architecture, just from the commercial products side of NEC) instead of a 5150 back in 1983.

NEC's problem is that they're always maintained the platform as a closed system. Any information that there is has been sussed out by hobbyists. I'm aware, for example, of no official publication of the ins and outs of the C-Bus.

One thing that has undoubtedly led to the scrapping of many early 9801s was the use of nonstandard floppy drives. Many employed internal (sometimes called VFO) data separator circuits. This was true for the 8" to the 3.5" drives as well as the 5.25" ones.

FWIW, the 9801-type of platform was in very common use among Japanese machine tool manufacturers. Mitsubishi, Tokyo Electron and others. The CPU, however, can range between 8086 to 68000 (the latter runs CP/M 68K).

I believe that there are 9801 emulators for various mobile platforms, including the iPod.

Although NEC maintained the 9800 series as a closed system, EPSON was actually able to produce compatibles (PC-486). NEC actually filed a lawsuit against EPSON over PC-486, but EPSON was able to win in court.

Also, from what I've read, Sodick's punching and molding machines utilized PC-9801 computers. Sodick actually sold these machines, with 9801s included, to US-based companies. A South Korean seller on eBay actually sells PC-9801s (and PC-9821) branded under "Sodick" and classified as "equipment parts", but they are heavily overpriced.

BTW, how compatible is the APC with PC-9801? I'd always though that the APC was modified in such a way that running Japanese PC-98 programs on it would be impossible.

Chuck(G)
July 29th, 2014, 06:47 PM
Yeah, I've got Sodick samples in my collection.

As far as I know, the APC runs the same MS-DOS 2.0 (80x2x8x1024) version as the early members of the PC9801 family. There could well be minor differences in the hardware, but AFAIK, both used the 7220 graphics controller.

[Chris]
August 28th, 2014, 05:24 PM
I'm looking for a PC-98 system myself, preferably a late model or a portable.

There's this on eBay but the asking price is ridiculous.
http://m.ebay.com/itm?itemId=281231959665

Hoping I can find one that can play all of the PC-98 Touhou games, maybe even run the specialized Windows 98 on it if it's a late model.

I do believe the late model (PC-9821Ra43) had a Celeron 443MHz on a Slot 1 MB. Wonder if it may be possible to slap a faster Celeron chip on it via a Slotket....

Chuck(G)
August 28th, 2014, 08:10 PM
Well, looking at http://auctions.yahoo.co.jp, they're not particularly uncommon in Japan--and there's the rub.

Some of the older PC9801 series used oddball floppy disk drives that contained the data separator on the drive board. Those can be a bear to find replacements for. There are kits to supply the function externally, but they're not cheap either.

There are several good PC98 emulators, including one that runs on, I believe, an iPod.

[Chris]
August 29th, 2014, 07:05 PM
Well, looking at http://auctions.yahoo.co.jp, they're not particularly uncommon in Japan--and there's the rub.

Some of the older PC9801 series used oddball floppy disk drives that contained the data separator on the drive board. Those can be a bear to find replacements for. There are kits to supply the function externally, but they're not cheap either.

There are several good PC98 emulators, including one that runs on, I believe, an iPod.


I actually run one of the emulators on my Inspiron 5000, but I rather run it on real PC-98 hardware